Pottery Throwdown 2021, Episode 4: A Perfect Union of Man and Budgie

Rich and Siobhan went halves on a suit set, next week he gets to wear the trousers and she’ll have a spin in the jacket.

This episode has everything, pottery deaths, veiled threats of violence, a 100% increase in Rose content and FIRE, SWEET FIRE.

Born Naked

It’s everyone’s favourite week of the show: Raku Week and this time it’s getting even riskier with Naked Raku! Which is basically the process of putting “combustibles” onto raw clay that has been heated up to the unliveable temperature of the planet Mercury – Mercury being 800 degrees is literally the only thing I remember from Science classes, I’m glad it payed off eventually. This time there are no glazes involved so at least nobody has to worry about accidentally turning one of their vases blue.

For this week’s main challenge the potters will have to create a pair of bulbous vases, one measuring 30 centimetres and the other being 15 centimetres and both must feature a neck and rim – that last part is important later.

The taller of the vases immediately has a few of the potters quite worried because they’ve never thrown anything that tall on a wheel before. They do have the option to throw their vases in two pieces and then fixing the two halves together but this does come with the increased possibility of an exploding vase. Nonetheless Hannah, who seems the most uncomfortable with the challenge, is persevering with a risky halving with bulbous moon shape vases

She’s also planning on using lavender and sugar as her combustibles, which does sound a little bit like it might smell like your grandmother’s knicker drawer just caught on fire.
Sal also opted for the 2 piece approach (her pots, she wasn’t wearing a bikini) and was decorating hers with horse hair and emu feathers and she was topping it off with a risky flat topped rim.

Lee was trying to his big poppy seed head inspired vase in one but ran into a bit of a pickle and had to divert course and switch to doing it in two

He was decorating them with the hair of his neighbour’s pet horse, which sounds delightfully witchy and I’m positive it’ll ensure that Huddersfield has a bountiful harvest this year. It sure wasn’t a spell that lent him any good luck as somehow he manages to pierce his vase with the only sharp object within close proximity to him

Don’t worry, it somehow gets worse for the newly dubbed Clumsy Potter later.

While Sal, Hannah and Lee were all having to worry about the possibilites of explosions, Peter was a little too eager

Peter has in fact been banned from buying matches from his local supermarket. He was at least opting for a unique combustible with his plan to burn bladder wrack seaweed onto his pair of vases in the hopes of maybe injecting some colour into what turned out to be a very black and white challenge

Despite being nervous about the challenge and never having thrown this big Jodie was still going ahead with making her Greek amphoras in one piece

Nice to see Jodie is continuing her Tour of the World That She Has Never Seen Before – we love a strong brand identity. It also bode well for her this episode that before she had so much as thrown half a vase she had Keith crying after she told him about her favourite feather dusters. I feel a little left out that I don’t have a favourite feather duster.

Despite being the newest to the art of pottery (a brave assumption but I’m pretty sure Shenyue said she had only been doing it for 18 months?) Shenyue has in fact thrown to 30 centimetres before (brag) and seemed fairly confident in making her tear drop inspired vases

A design practically begging for Keith to weep his little eyes out over.

While Shenyue might have been going tall and elegant with hers, Henry was making an ode to his squat little budgies, Bonnie and Clyde

To complete the full budgie experience he will also be using their feathers as his combustibles. He wasn’t the only one honouring their pet as Adam was planning on making a pair of vases to honour his pug Egg, which got off to a rocky start and I think Egg might have been a touch upset with this particular rendition of his pug-y form

That’s a pug after 4 G&Ts. (I am not condoning canine drinking). But in some good news for Adam, his moodboard finally got showcased and I don’t have to start a petition to get the government to deal with this injustice

While Adam eventually managed to produce a pair of erect vases he was still struggling with size – it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Rather than resort to the spam emails though he pops a ring on the base (accidental cock ring joke klaxon) which Keith and Rich, in a delightful case of foreshadowing, joke about “just being a napkin ring”…

Not happy with his makeshift foot he also adds a double rim to his vase which does make it look a bit like the pottery equivalent of getting free lip fillers from a dodgy beautician

While Adam opted for a risky double lip, Alon was being Alon and had invented the inverted lip with his pair of vases that featured a strong case of multi-bulbitude

And in an attempt to further separate himself from the crowd of black and white, feather and hair designs he was going to showcase a traditional Eastern European technique called Obvara, which is sometimes called Baltic Raku. Instead of placing dry combustibles on his clay, Alon will be dipping it into a mixture consisting of flour, water and yeast which creates a bubbling, crackling texture – the reaction of which has to be stopped by then plunging his vases into cold water – further risking the possibility of cracks and explosions – Peter hide your enthusiasm. This of course has Keith and Rich once again very fearful for Alon

They really wont be happy until Alon just makes them an ordinary white dinner plate will they? They’re nerves cannot take this much longer!

Once everyone has moulded their vases they’re put into the drying room until they reach a leathery hardness. So while they harden it’s onto the Throwdown Challenge.

Darling Buds of Mayday, Mayday!

Before we get to the burning and combusting it’s time for a rather more sedate and dainty affair with a challenge involving making a trio of bone china daisies for Bone China Daisy Expert, Rita Floyd

She wants one open daisy, one semi-open daisy and a closed daisy.She does at least give the potters a demonstration which everyone is absolutely enraptured by like children watching a magician reveal a dove from his sleeve

And thus, a series of reaction Gifs are born. Meanwhile Jodie is just horrified by the whole process and you would think she had just stumbled across a waterlogged corpse and not a bouquet of pottery flowers

The temptation to pause this recap and write a treatment for a Scandi Crime drama about a potter who finds herself at the centre of crime investigation is almost too much to ignore.

The potters all have 30 minutes to produce their daisies and much of the time is spent with most of them muttering to themselves about how much they hate this as they create a series of Lovecraftian horrors while Adam in the corner gently whispers “I love this!” to himself. After all, he did make all of those mushrooms so he is pretty much in his element, if his butterfingers will allow it

It was quite fun to see Shenyue going from “I love gardening, here are my vegetables fruit!” to “BURN ALL FLOWERS, THIS DAISY DESERVES DEATH!” within the space of exactly one episode as she produces a series of rather greasy looking daisies

Hers weren’t exactly the least attractive as Peter decided that instead of making a daisy he would make a bone china figure of Dalek Caan

And I for one admire him for it – if there’s one thing we need more of in the world its fine china Doctor Who merchandise.

Rita was mostly after as good an observation of a daisy as the potters could matter and was putting a big focus on the shape of the petals and their tapered edges, which Sal managed to achieve despite a few misgivings about the delicacy required for the task

Jodie on the other hand ended up with a trio of daisies suffering from a hormone imbalance

but her Daisy’s weren’t quite so overcome by their miserable existence that they, like Lee’s, jumped to their death

And while everyone was struggling to get their petals done correctly Henry had taken it upon himself to produce a double-flowered daisy

the problem with this approach is it takes double the time and while he was worrying about his petals he should have been worrying about the flower’s pistil which for him turned out to be a touch too big

Alon may have finished the round first but it came at the cost of his petals being just a little too rough for Rita’s exacting floral standards

The winning spot was a clear race between Adam and Hannah with Adam’s more colourful offerings taking up second place

While Hannah won the round with a natural looking bud

A Bone China Daisy Ranking

  1. Hannah’s Natural Bud
  2. Adam’s Daisy Spectrum
  3. Sal’s Lengthy Petals
  4. Alon’s Rough and Ready Petals
  5. Henry’s Thicc Heads
  6. Jodie’s Menopausal Daisies
  7. RIP Lee’s Daisies
  8. Shenyue’s Floral Aversion
  9. Peter’s Daisy Dalek

Buff It and Burn It

Once the vases have reached the desired hardness the potters now have to buff them out to an incredibly shiny surface – after all they wont get the opportunity to glaze their pots. The Weapon du Jour for the buffering process is, of course, spoons – most of which have been stolen from one family member or another. What exactly is the spoon budget of a potter’s family? Because this seems like a real problem.
The other useful items that everyone suddenly becomes obsessed with Lee’s poop bags which he’s handing out like a grandmother giving away 6 year old toffee sweets

Meanwhile Adam slips Shenyue an unlucky stone

There are two types of potter in the world.

Lee’s generosity didn’t quite pay off in the good karma he deserved because mere moments later he managed to break the rim of his vase

And of course his first course of action to instanly run to Sal for advice on how to fix it

I imagine this isn’t the first time in the competition that Sal has had to give sage advice on avoiding near calamity. She is the slurry holding everyone together at this point.

While everyone develops some sort of repetitive strain injury during this process, nobody is going to be quite as sore as Hannah who is apparently The Fastest Bufferer in the West

It’s a wonder she could even lift her pot when it came to the firing phase.

With the vases now smooth and shiny it was time for the potters to head out into the courtyard where Rose awaited with her Hellmouth Kilns

Also Raku Andrew is here

and you would think that walking outside the potters would be incredibly careful while carrying their vases, right? Daredevil and circus enthusiast Henry had other plans and was playing with fire and it’s a miracle this didn’t end in some sort of tragedy

First up into the kilns is Sal who pushes the temperature up to a whopping 891 degrees and then very nearly gives everyone a heart attack while taking her vase out and nearly dropping it

I CANNOT TAKE THIS, but I could watch her emu feather puffing into nothingness all day

and while Sal’s final pots are very pretty, they unfortunately still bear the mark the tongues made when she picked them up, which could have been hidden by a better placed feather

Jodie’s feathery tricks weren’t going quite to plan as the vase was too hot and they burnt off before they could leave a mark on the clay, however as it turned out this worked in her favour as she produced a rather stunning yin-yang feather motif

There is a slight debate over whether they’re a vase or a murder weapon (why not both?) because they are incredibly heavy, and maybe a spot uneven at the head?

But maybe that’s just an authentic amphora thing.

The last of our featherers was Henry who decided that just using the feathers wasn’t enough and promptly decided that in order to a create a perfect union of man and budgie he was going to use his own hair as well as the feathers

and while this did result in two very beautiful pots and perfectly detailed feather imprints

He did also end up with… quite the haircut

The sudden 7 day break in the filming schedule really payed off for some people, huh?

I did feel somewhat bad for Lee as Henry’s use of human hair really stole the show from his horse’s hair which apparently stunk the courtyard out to high heaven. But at least his rim survived despite the slight hairline crack running through it

And Rich even commends him for his “rim profile” but unfortunately the middle section of his vases lack decoration and it comes across as more of oversight rather than an intentional design choice.

Shenyue also decided to add horse hair to her design as well as creating a delicate ombre effect using smoke

the delicacy and elegance of them obviously instantly had Keith on the verge of tears

Peter’s seaweed plans didn’t go quite as expected, they didn’t really leave an distinctly different colour on the vases, but at least he had some donkey hair on hand (nice of him to not call it ass hair) and he is commended for his ingenuity of creating a blackened interior to create a sense of contrast

He did have an unfortunate accident shortly after the firing in which the base of his vase came off

but it was nowhere near as dramatic as Rich de-footing Adam’s vase

The nation shook from the scream I let out. In actuality his vases did look better without the foot

Sometimes things are a happy little accident and I’m sure Egg is thrilled with his immortalisation in pottery form. And I believe Adam now owes us all a Naked Raku Dance

or is that a naked, Raku Dance?

While everyone was busy asaulting the nasal passages by burning copious amounts of animal hair, Hannah was at least on hand to offer a brief aromatic respite with her burning of sugar and lavender that created a beautiful mottled effect

and it really goes with the lunar theme of her vases – it truly was Hannah’s episode, and to think she seemed the least confident when it all began!

And lastly it’s time to dip into the cool waters of Alon’s yeasty brew

I like to think he’s had that lying around the whole time and it has slowly absorbing the personalities of the potter and becoming its own person of its own a la The Flesh from Doctor Who. Can you tell I recently binged like 4 series of Doctor Who in a week?
Alon’s dunking goes remarkably well up until the last of the two vases which he loses hold of during its water dunking and sort of just politely bobs around waiting to be rescued

The final result is an incredibly interesting effect that really set Alon apart from everyone else’s vases

Keith of course has a slight issue with the lack of a well defined neck and rim. But you know, some necks are just very thick, we’ve all see Sam Warburton’s autobiography cover

And you got not 1 but three bulbous shapes so count your blessings Keith!

An Arbitrary Naked Raku Vase Ranking

  1. Shenyue’s Ombre Tears
  2. Alon’s Yeasty Jugs
  3. Hannah’s Fragrant Moon
  4. Jodie’s Good Ostrich vs Bad Ostrich
  5. Henry’s Budgie Buddies
  6. Lee’s Baron Midriff
  7. Sal’s Tong Marks
  8. Adam’s Footless Pug Jug
  9. Peter’s Seaweed Experiment

Before the judges could get around to axing one of our poor potters the pandemic well and truly got under way and filming had to be suspended for a week to ensure everyone’s safety and thus, as a special treat nobody goes home – which is a lucky escape for the fancy footwork of Adam and Peter (as well as Henry’s new haircut). I think it was definitely the fairest decision, nobody produced a real clunker of a design and the final spread of vases was a bit of a black and white melange with not a great deal of differentiation between each vase.
There is still a winner to announce and taking up the forth podium in Rose’s Room of Wonders is Hannah’s bulbous vases

And still, 9 potters remain!

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